Nfld. & Labrador

'She should not have been there': More questions raised about Skye Martin's death in Clarenville prison

Sabrina Hudson, who was at the prison when Martin died, says the staff don't have the training to deal with the mental health issues of prisoners.

Former inmate who was there the day Martin died says staff aren't properly equipped

Former inmate Sabrina Hudson was at the Clarenville women's prison when Skye Martin died, and says that staff weren't properly trained to handle Martin's mental health issues. (CBC)

A former inmate who was incarcerated at the women's prison in Clarenville when Skye Martin died says her death could have been prevented with better training for staff and proper care for mental health issues.

Sabrina Hudson, who knew Martin before and during her incarceration, says what she heard the afternoon of Martin's death does not entirely line up with police comments about how she died.

She had the mindset of a ten year old. She should not have been there at all.- Sabrina Hudson

"I don't think anybody with mental health issues should be there," said Hudson in an interview with the St. John's Morning Show

"I think that they should be incarcerated down in the criminal justice ward down at the Waterford so they can get the proper treatment that they need." 

Martin died in late April while serving time at the Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women, which is the only facility in the province for female prisoners.

RCMP say Martin appears to have died because she choked on a piece of a sandwich, and in a statement to CBC News the provincial Department of Justice said that an official cause of death, as determined by the chief medical examiner, cannot be released while the investigation continues.

But Hudson said choking doesn't match with what she overheard at the prison that day — or with the way Martin had been acting during the week preceding her death.

In segregation

Martin was in segregation on April 20, the day she died, Hudson said, after a week of turmoil.

The woman she knew outside of prison and addiction was "an amazing human being," she said.

But in the Clarenville prison, dealing with addiction and mental health issues, Martin was completely different, Hudson said.

Skye Martin died on April 21 in the Clarenville prison. (Facebook)

"She had the mindset of a 10-year-old," she said. "She should not have been there at all."

Martin served a year-long prison sentence for an armed robbery in September 2015, and was released.

In January 2017 she committed numerous offences both in and out of the Waterford Hospital, including attacking nurses and robbing a convenience store at knife point.

Once back in Clarenville, Martin made it clear she wanted to be at the Waterford, Hudson said — and that desire ramped up in the days before Martin's death.

The week of Martin's death

On Monday, Hudson said that while in her cell — located in the common area where prisoners ate and watched television — she heard Martin fill a kettle, boil the water, and then haul up her shirt and pour the hot water on her bare skin.

The next day, she said Martin took medications for another inmate off the medication cart. 

She was placed in a restraint chair with a helmet for two days in a row on Wednesday and Thursday, Hudson said, after attacking guards. 

Andrew Parsons is Newfoundland and Labrador's Minister of Justice and Public Safety. The department said in a statement that they cannot release any details about Skye Martin's death, including the cause, while it is under investigation. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

On Friday, Hudson said Martin was in a cell alone, in the segregation unit, banging loudly on its door.

"She was banging and banging and banging, then it started getting lighter and lighter and lighter," she said.

"And that's when we heard six guards running down the hallway."

About 10 minutes after running down the range — the area of the prison where most cells were located, including Martin's —  two guards ran back up shouting for an ambulance, Hudson said.

I know it was jail, but we don't deserve to be treated like that.- Sabrina Hudson

When the paramedics arrived they worked on Martin at the prison for about 20 minutes, she said, and as they were bringing her up the range she flatlined twice.

"Through my window, I could see her getting put in the ambulance lifeless," Hudson said.

"And that day, it was the most horrible day of my life."

Cause of death unclear

Martin later died at the Dr. G.B. Memorial Hospital in Clarenville, early in the morning of April 21. 

​Hudson said the RCMP's statement that Martin choked to death on a piece of food doesn't line up with what she heard, and her experience in the prison.

"We hear the guards down there saying, 'Skye, talk to me, talk to me, Skye, sit down, honey, sit down,'" Martin said of the day Martin died, after guards had rushed to her cell.

Sabrina Hudson says her friend Skye Martin was an "amazing human being." (Facebook)

"And then you hear another one of the guards say, 'Where did you get the plastic bag to?'"

Hudson says she didn't see a plastic bag herself, but that she could hear the conversation from her cell in the common area.

Lunch was served at 11:30 a.m., she said, and RCMP were called to the jail at about 3:30 p.m., so Martin shouldn't have had a sandwich in the afternoon. 

Hudson believes that Martin was on suicide watch at the time of her death and said she wouldn't have had plastic when her meal was brought to her — her meals were being served with paper bags, paper cups and no utensils.

"She was supposed to be on suicide watch," she said. "So why weren't they watching her all this time?"

The Department of Justice said because the matter is under investigation, they couldn't confirm or deny if Martin was on suicide watch, but noted,"Suicide watch means the inmate is in a cell with a camera and is monitored 24 hours a day."

'We don't deserve to be treated like that'

Hudson was released from the Clarenville prison the week after Martin died. When she heard about Samantha Piercey's death at the same prison in late May, she said she felt sympathy for the woman's family, but not shock.

The conditions at the prison, and the lack of appropriate help for prisoners with mental health issues, contribute to these situations, she said.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Correctional Centre for Women in Clarneville is the only facility in the province for female prisoners. (Courtesy Kathy Gosse/The Packet )

The prison is kept so cold that inmates need more than the four thin blankets they are allowed to have, Hudson said, and the facility is crowded with some prisoners triple bunked.

Hudson said she didn't receive the depression and anxiety medications she needed while in prison, and that guards aren't properly trained to deal with the mental health and addictions issues some inmates have.

"I completely understand that I broke the law," Hudson said.

"I know it was jail, but we don't deserve to be treated like that."

About a month and a half after Martin's death, Hudson is preparing for an upcoming trial on two charges of breaking and entering, which she said she did not do.

"I got my trial in July and I'm hoping I can fight it because I really don't want to go back there," Hudson said.

"And if I have to, I'm asking the judge to send me to federal because I hear federal time is so much better than doing it here in Newfoundland."

Read more articles from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Stephen Miller and the St. John's Morning Show

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